Pet rights social movement is real. Nowadays, there is a lot of discussion surrounding pet ownership. Some people are worried that having more exotic pets in our homes stands for cruel animal treatment. Others are sure that it all boils down to individual owners. Our take is this: you can have exotic pets, including hedgehogs, without resorting to the use of cruel methods.
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Short answer: is it cruel to have a pet hedgehog?
Taking excellent care of your pet hedgehog isn’t the definition of cruelty in our book. However, failure to understand the unique needs of hedgehogs may result in cruel treatment. And that is never okay! As a pet hedgehog owner, you need to educate yourself on all the needs, quirks, and behavioral traits of hedgehogs.
How could hedgehog owners be cruel towards their pets?
The following overview has only one goal: educating future pet owners. Before you become a hedgehog owner, you can learn about some of the ways that don’t serve your hedgie’s needs. In the following paragraphs, we’ll list all the owner behaviors that are unacceptable. You are able to learn from these examples to become the best hedgehog mommy or daddy out there!
Not enough food or inadequate menu
Food is important part of every hedgehog’s daily life. That’s why you need to make sure it’s up to the task of proper nutrition. You need to create a menu based on all the nutritional needs of your prickly little buddy.
But even too much food can become a problem. Many owners start their hedgehog journey by calculating the energy needs of their pets. As time passes, it becomes easier to estimate whether a particular portion is just what their pet needs.
Another aspect to consider is the food quality. You might get the portion size and frequency right, but there’s no point if the food was very low quality. Furthermore, you need to make sure that you don’t give random wild food to your hedgehog. This may contain harmful bacteria and parasites that will surely harm their health.
Keep in mind that although hedgehogs are wild animals, domestication has definitely affected their metabolism and immune system. This is why you should never give a wild catch to your pet hedgie.
You really need to be careful about picking the right cage for your hedgie. Wrong cage size results in decreased mobility. And that definitely isn’t kind towards your hedgehog.
The bottom of the cage should be at least four sq ft. Otherwise, your hedgehog won’t have enough room to move around. And make sure that the cage doesn’t have any parts that could injure or threaten your hedgie’s well-being.
Lack of a running wheel
An exercise wheel is a staple in every hedgehog cage. In the wild, hedgehogs cover great distances each night. Especially, if you factor in their diminutive size. They need this exercise as pets too. The ancient wiring in their brains and bodies can’t be undone.
Every owner needs to ensure that they have an exercise wheel in the cage. This wheel helps them to unload their energy after the nightfall. Plenty of exercise keeps certain diseases and obesity at bay.
But it’s crucial to have the right kind of running wheel in the cage. Don’t buy a wheel that’s made of wires. This type of wheel can become dangerous or even life-threatening to your hedgie.
Instead, opt for an exercise that has a flat plastic bottom. Also, make sure this wheel is big enough. Go for a diameter that’s at least 12 inches. Buying the wheel when your pet is still a tiny hoglet may question you the wheel’s size. But don’t worry. Your hedgie grows up so fast. A bigger wheel is a good investment.
When we are focusing on potential cruelty, then temperature issues pose a pressing problem. The ideal temperature is between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s of absolute importance to keep the right temperature in your hedgie’s cage.
Too high or low temperature isn’t just cruel. It’s life-threatening to your pet hedgehog. When the temperature is too low, your hedgehog might get into a state resembling a coma. This may become fatal for them.
But when the temperature is too hot, your hedgie can suffer from a heat stroke. That’s why you need to make sure the temperature is just right. Every cage should come equipped with a digital thermometer. This ensures that the owner has a constant overview of the temperature fluctuations.
You could even connect a smart thermometer to your computer. Now you can see the changes in temperature when you are sleeping or away from home. If it gets too cold, you can use ceramic heaters. But follow all the safety precautions. The wrong setup could be a fire and health hazard to your hedgehog.
Sleep and light
One of the big worries with hedgehogs is that they are essentially nocturnal animals. There’s no way around this. You can’t and shouldn’t even try turning them into animals who sleep during the night. That’s just not gonna happen and this would constitute animal abuse.
Regulate the blinds or curtains so that during the daytime your hedgehog gets enough light. They use light as a signal, not a particular time of the day to understand when to sleep or not.
You want to keep your hedgie’s natural circadian rhythm as it should work under normal circumstances. Usually, in nature, when you see a hedgehog moving about during the daytime, they tend to be sick. It’s not normal. However, there are a few exceptions, such as young hedgies collecting food for fat in late fall.
Although hedgehogs are nocturnal, researchers have noted crepuscular activity as well. This means that some hedgies are active at dawn and dusk. The particular activity levels depend on their individual inner workings and levels of different chemicals in the body.
Ignoring medical issues
Not reacting to potential medical problems is definitely cruel. You don’t want your hedgehog to suffer meaninglessly from a disease or disorder. When you see any sudden changes in their behavior, even subtle ones, and these persist, then always take your hedgie to a qualified vet.
Keep an eye on their droppings. There are many cases when hedgehog waste may indicate an underlying disease. For example, when the texture or frequency makes a sudden change, you should be aware of this and act accordingly. Sometimes the medical issues may have an obvious presentation, such as blood in the feces.
Also, you should visit the veterinarian once a year. Regular check-ups are always a good idea. Even though your hedgie might do just fine, it doesn’t hurt to get looked at by a veterinary expert.
Raising their stress levels
Hedgehogs get stressed easily. And as an owner, you should do everything not to stress your prickly buddy. When you take your hedgehog out and play with him, then put him back when you can see signs of clear agitation.
It’s definitely not kind to keep playing or pushing your hedgie to be active when they are clearly not enjoying this ‘quality time’. Also, you should keep in mind that hedgehogs differ from cats and dogs. They have been coexisting together with humans for far less time compared to our most popular pets.
Bonding is a controversial topic. We won’t go too much into details here. But it’s clear that smell and sounds are the best ways to communicate with your hedgehog. Many owners have realized that it’s less stressful for their pets when they have properly bonded with them. Otherwise, imagine that you’d have to share your living quarters with a complete stranger every day. Not that nice!
When you try bonding with your hedgehog, then take small steps. Don’t force anything. Avoid perfumes and scented personal care products, especially on your hands. These may confuse or irritate your hedgehog. Use all the knowledge available on our site to read more about different ways to bond and get more friendly with your hedgehog.
The bottom line: is it cruel to have a pet hedgehog?
Owning a pet hedgehog isn’t cruel if the owner is responsible, knowledgeable, and proactive. You should never take a hedgehog as a pet just because they are ‘exotic’ or you saw them on Instagram.
Every decision to take a pet should be considered thoroughly. It’s very important to understand how hedgehog behavior works and what they need for keeping a good quality of life.
In this article, you could see some of the pitfalls that you should be aware of as a future hedgehog owner. Doing these mistakes could be considered cruel against pet hedgehog because they bring about suffering or threaten their lives.